Smart rooms no substitute for good old-fashioned hospitality

Smart rooms no substitute for good old-fashioned hospitality

Mark Elliott considers the plans for new smartphone-activated serviced apartments

Mark Elliott considers the plans for new smartphone-activated serviced apartments

Back to basics
Back to basics

Recently, my wife and I booked a hotel in the good old British seaside resort of Blackpool. And to be honest, there was plenty of availability.

But while comparing pictures of the different hotels online, one thing struck me: hardly any of the hotels had rooms with flat-screen TVs. It’s been nearly a decade since the global switch from bulky box tellies to flat-screens, yet many hotels have still not managed to make the upgrade.

Now compare that to Ascott’s plans, unveiled last week, for the global roll-out of new “smart rooms”. These high-tech apartments will enable guests to control everything, from the TV and lights to the air-conditioning and kettle, all from their smartphones. And not only when they’re inside the room, but from anywhere in town.

Pretty good eh? Well yes, as long as the guests are adept at using it. But what if they aren’t? Hotel room technology can be a struggle at the best of times (my usual battle is that one corner light that’s impossible to switch off, no matter which buttons you press), but combine that with the capricious nature of smartphone technology, and it’s a technophobe’s worst nightmare.

Imagine, you’re trying to turn on the TV and the kettle starts boiling, or you try to switch off that corner lamp off and inadvertently start running a bath. It could end up like the magical housework scene in Fantasia.

Of course, I’m sure Ascott, with the backing of technology giant Samsung, would not launch any new technology without being sure it worked properly, and I have no doubt their smart rooms will be excellent. But can technology sometimes go too far?

In Blackpool there will be no online check-in, no smartphone-enabled room keys, no master-switch controlled mood lighting, and apparently, no flat-screen TVs. But somehow, it doesn’t matter. I know we’ll get a comfy bed overlooking the sea, a home-cooked breakfast and, if we’re lucky, a towel or two, given that it will probably be raining all the time.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it’s just nice to switch off your smartphone and enjoy a bit of good old-fashioned hospitality.

Mark Elliott
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Mark Elliott
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